Anaheim still loves Ohtani amid trade rumors, but Angels stumble in return from All-Star break

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin made it clear that a Friday night win over the Houston Astros would not solve all of his injury-riddled team’s issues.

“We’re not going to make up this big deficit that we’ve acquired over the last two weeks,” Nevin said before Friday’s game. “We’re not going to make it up tonight. But we’ve got to play better baseball for us to have a chance for those things.”

In front of a packed Angel Stadium, the Angels only fell further into their under .500 hole — despite Shohei Ohtani’s best efforts. The Astros defeated the Angels, 7-5, in the first game of the weekend series. But the Angels’ abysmal 45-47 record may not even be the biggest storyline that surrounds the team.

Although the Angels have given zero indication of any desire to trade Ohtani, that didn’t stop both players and fans from openly courting Ohtani in Seattle at the All-Star Game. The MLB trade deadline, August 1st, is just on the horizon.

“Come to Se-at-tle!” chants rang out from Mariners fans during the ASG Game when Ohtani was up to bat. Mets pitcher and fellow countryman Kodai Senga, through a translator, joked about putting his Mets cap on Ohtani’s head.

“I’ve never experienced anything like that, but I definitely heard it,” Ohtani said about the Seattle chants after the ASG Game through Ippei Muzahara, his translator.

But Angels fans are showing Ohtani as much love as they can, and for however long they can. Ohtani still receives the loudest cheers out of the entire Angels roster. His jersey is the most represented throughout the stadium. Pockets of “MVP” chants broke out across Angel Stadium whenever Ohtani was up to bat.

“The Angels fans come to watch the Angels because they love the team and [Ohtani] wants to perform the best for them and, like he said, there is stuff that he can control and that he can’t control, and whatever he can control, he wants to do his best at it,” Muzahara said, interpreting one of Ohtani’s responses to a question at the All-Star Game.

Ohtani pitched five innings and ended his Friday night with a 3.50 ERA and seven strikeouts. He left the mound at the top of the sixth inning after walking Astros left fielder Corey Julks. Ohtani, after putting on a shin guard, did stay in the game as a designated hitter. In five at-bats, Ohtani had two hits and one run.

Keeping Ohtani isn’t an overarching solution for the Angels’ issues, but at least his presence is enough to keep fans in the seats.